Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wisconsin University Students ready to roll and vote

This blog is no longer on Sacramento Connect

This blog is no longer connected to Sacramento Connect, the blog roll of the Sacramento Bee.  Here is an explanation of why.
I attended an interesting talk on Sept. 23 by Barry Lynn, author of Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. (2010)  He discussed many roles of monopolies in our society.
Among the most dangerous   roles is the monopoly, or the quasi monopoly on information.  In a republic, the citizens need several sources of information from multiple viewpoints in order to make citizens decisions.  Adding sources of information is precisely the purpose of this blog.
The Sacramento Bee is a near monopoly that gathers information in order to make a profit.  The purpose of the Bee is to make a profit.  To be on Sacramento Connect, you get listed by the Bee and they place ads on your blog.  They receive money from these ads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Charter schools and school reform

  Charter Schools.
 Charters  are  usually public schools using public money  but without the direct over sight of school districts, school administrations and  school boards.  They often do not allow teachers to have a union and they usually do not have a union contract.  Charters are established by state laws and promoted by federal legislation including No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
In California, research shows  some charters do better than  some public schools, some do worse.  They are about average. The evidence is the  same in New York City.
 What are the clear effect of charters?   Charter school  teachers are paid about 20% less,  and usually  are expected to work much longer hours.  The average teacher works 69 hours per week for an average salary of  around $51,000 in California.
    In charters  teachers  are usually receive  less benefits and  little or no job security.  You can be dismissed by the director  of the charter for almost any reason.
  Charter advocates and other neo liberal reformers blamed the teachers unions for their own  failure to improve  public schools. Persons who claim to be reformers attempt to break the domination of the bureaucracy, such as in Washington D.C. under Chancellor Michelle Rhee, often focus on  bringing in superintendents with little background in administration and public schools, the firing of administrators and some teachers for failing to reform failing schools. It is the corporate world of individualism, competition, and consumption opposed to the public sphere of  learning civic cooperation and a pluralist democratic ethos. To date this strategy has produced a high teacher and administrator turn over, but it has not improved academic achievement.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not Waiting for Superman

      Rethinking Schools has launched a new project, “NOT Waiting for Superman.” We could use your help and invite your participation.
As you may know, on September 24, the film Waiting for Superman will open in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. Soon after, it will open in thousands of theaters across the country. The film, made by Davis Guggenheim who directed An Inconvenient Truth, is backed by a well-financed, sophisticated media campaign.
According to those who have seen the film, Waiting for Superman is “very sophisticated,” “emotionally engaging,”  “politically convincing to the uninformed,” and “contains powerful stories.” Politically it has been described as “anti-teacher union,” “anti-public education,” “pro-charter,” “promoting market solutions,” “anti-teacher,” and “promoting the Duncan/Rhee/Klein agenda.”
Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp wrote this after viewing the film:
The message of the film is that public schools are failing because of bad teachers and their unions. The film's "solution," to the minimal extent it suggests one, is to replace them with "great" charter schools and teachers who have less power over their schools and classrooms.
This message is not just wrong. In the current political climate, it's toxic.
The film was made by the Academy-Award winning director of "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary that helped awaken millions to the dangers of global warming. But this film misses the mark by light years. Instead of helping people understand the many problems schools face and what it will take to address them, it presents misleading information and simplistic "solutions" that will make it harder for those of us working to improve public education to succeed. We know first hand how urgently change is needed. But by siding with a corporate reform agenda of teacher bashing, union busting, test-based "accountability" and highly selective, privatized charters, the film pours gasoline on the public education bonfire started by No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top.

Waiting for school improvement

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The continuing economic crisis

The financial crisis is not over although it has been moved off of the front pages of many papers.  On Thursday, September 23, 2010, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission came to Sacramento chaired by Phil Angelides.  In his opening statement Angelides noted that there were 26 million out of work, over 2 million have lost their homes, over $12 trillion in wealth has been wiped out, and California has an official 12.8 % unemployment.
The crisis started in the housing markets, particularly  in places like Sacramento. The economic problems were accelerated by the near larceny of business practices by corporations including Washington Mutual and Long Beach Savings.  Sub prime and Alter A mortgages were promoted and sold to make outlandish profits even though it was clear that many home buyers could not pay for their mortgages.
The  current Great Recession was accelerated far beyond  Sacramento and the Central Valley by finance capital and banking, mostly on Wall Street, ie. Chase Banks, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs,  AIG, and others.  Finance capital owned the banks, and they robbed the banks through investment and trading  schemes including investments in mortgage backed derivatives. Wall Street’s actions plunged the U.S. into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, destroying jobs and lives, and triggering a recession in much of  the developed world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Michele Rhee and school reform

I post this piece from the Washington Post because the approach pushed by Michele Rhee, and featured in the new film "Waiting for Superman," is often copied in California and in the Sacramento Region, including in the school reform  suggestions of Meg Whitman and the role of the media.

A chance to learn from Rhee's mistakes

By Mark Simon

Post editors and reporters appear to have latched on to every possible explanation for the public’s rejection of Mayor Adrian Fenty. Racial politics this week. Fenty’s personality. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s failure to communicate.
But Fenty’s defeat isn’t about race or personality. It’s about bad decisions, particularly on school reform. His school reform strategies, as shoved through by Rhee, alienated the voters.
Rhee certainly rates as smart, charismatic and bold. But she made decisions early in her tenure that alienated every constituency she needed, and she rested her “reforms” on strategies that national education researchers have repeatedly warned against."
Read the entire post here:
Update. Here are additional  alternative sources;
Read more:

The writer, a member of Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform, is a DCPS parent, an education policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute and a former president of the Montgomery County teachers union.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I haven't seen the film yet.  Here is a critical review.

An Inconvenient Superman: Davis Guggenheim's New Film Hijacks School Reform

Davis Guggenheim's 2010 film Waiting for Superman is a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions. The film suggests the problems in education are the fault of teachers and teacher unions alone, and it asserts that the solution to those problems is a greater focus on top-down instruction driven by test scores. It rejects the inconvenient truth that our schools are being starved of funds and other necessary resources, and instead opts for an era of privatization and market-driven school change. Its focus effectively suppresses a more complex and nuanced discussion of what it might actually take to leave no child behind, such as a living wage, a full-employment economy, the de-militarization of our schools, and an education based on the democratic ideal that the fullest development of each is the condition for the full development of all. The film is positioned to become a leading voice in framing the debate on school reform, much like Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth did for the discussion of global warming, and that's heartbreaking.
I'm not categorically opposed to charter schools; they can and often do allow a group of creative and innovative teachers, parents, and communities to build schools that work for their kids and are free of the deadening bureaucracy of most districts. These schools can be catalysts for even larger changes. But there are really two main opposing positions in the "charter movement" -- it's not really a movement, by the way, but rather a diverse range of different projects. On one side are those who hope to use the charter option to operate effective small schools that are autonomous from districts. On the other side are the corporate powerhouses and the ideological opponents of all things public who see this as a chance to break the teacher's unions and to privatize education. Superman is a shill for the latter. Caring, thoughtful teachers are working hard in both types of schools. But their efforts are being framed and defined, even undermined, by powerful forces that have seized the mantle of "reform."

The film dismisses with a side comment the inconvenient truth that our schools are criminally underfunded. Money's not the answer, it glibly declares. Nor does it suggest that students would have better outcomes if their communities had jobs, health care, decent housing, and a living wage. Particularly dishonest is the fact that Guggenheim never mentions the tens of millions of dollars of private money that has poured into the Harlem Children's Zone, the model and superman we are relentlessly instructed to aspire to. Those funds create full family services and a state of the art school. In a sleight of hand, the film magically shifts focus, turning to "bad teaching" as the problem in the poor schools while ignoring these millions of dollars that make people clamor to get into the Promise Academy. As a friend of mine said, "Well, at least now we know what it costs."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whitman's plans for California schools

CTA’s new TV ad calls out gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s plan that could cut another $7 billion from our schools. The question to her is how will she cut $15 billion from the state budget without taking nearly half or more from our schools. Whitman should know that education accounts for nearly half the state budget and in the last round of state budget reductions, public education took 53% of the cuts.
How You Can Help:
Contact Whitman and ask her to explain how she plans on cutting $15 billion from the state budget without cutting schools and colleges.
·        Call her at 408.400.3887
·        Email her at
·        Engage her on Twitter
·        Respond on her Facebook page and her Talk to Meg Website.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

California Schools- not in compliance????

Update on Education Jobs Money
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is urging governors to act quickly and submit their state applications for their share of the $10 billion education jobs funding as soon possible so that the emergency aid can begin flowing to districts. So far, 17 states have had their funding requests approved:
         Estimated Number of
           Teaching Positions
$149.5 million
$1.2 billion
$159.5 million
$110.5 million
$322.3 million
$415.4 million
$96.5 million
$92.5 million
$39 million
$204 million
$58.9 million
$83.1 million
New Mexico
$64.9 million
New York
$607.6 million
South Dakota
$26.3 million
$195.9 million
$179.7 million

The $10 billion education fund was created to support education jobs in the 2010–11 school year and will be distributed to states by a formula based on population figures. States can then distribute their funding to school districts using their funding formulas or districts' relative share of federal Title I funds.
However, a provision in the bill requires states to have maintained their level of higher education spending this year, something many of the states have not been able to do. And the bill does not offer waivers for states to opt out of this requirement, which means that those states that have made drastic cuts to higher education could miss out on the windfall. Some states—such as California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—are believed to be caught in this noncompliance situation.

Only Congress can rectify this issue by repealing this provision.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiorina bought a Yacht

Elizabeth Warren appointed : Consumer Financial Protection

HUGE news: President Obama just appointed populist hero Elizabeth Warren to establish and lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau!!  
This is the boldest step Obama's taken so far to rein in the big Wall Street banks. And it's a major victory for grassroots progressives who rallied for Warren. 
The banks fought to keep her out of this job—and now that she has it, they'll do whatever they can to keep her from exercising her full authority. That's why we need to get the word out—to make sure she has the grassroots support she needs to aggressively police Wall Street.
So we made a video of Warren's greatest hits from her appearances on the "Daily Show" and a list of five cool facts about her. Check them out at the link below and send them to all your friends:
Top Five Things You Should Know About Elizabeth Warren
1. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was her idea.  Here's why she thinks this agency is so critical: "It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance your home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting your family out on the street."1

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Michele Rhee to lose her job?

Tonight NBC news with Bryan Williams advanced a  controversial opinion as fact tonight.
Bryan Williams described Michele Rhee as a leading voice of school reform.  In fact she is a major voice for one particular view of school reform- the corporate-test driven model.
Here is the transcript.  The oral statement was even stronger.  I encourage you to contact NBC and to protest. Please request a balanced report. The e mail is at the end of the transcript.

;Bryan Williams  NBC . Tonight.
washington, d.c., voters fired their mayor. while it was just a city mayor's race, that washington election result last night was heard across the country by those who follow education reform. that's because the defeat of mayor fenty means the departure of a big reformer. michelle ree is the chancellor of schools in d.c. this comes just as her profile is about to explode even bigger because of a new film called "waiting for superman." that premieres tonight in washington. our own tom costello is there for us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Comcast pulls CTA ad on Whitman

This ad has been pulled by Comcast. The Whitman campaign objected.

The California Teachers Association added the word "could" to its TV ad slamming Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, prompting the cable carrier Comcast to resume broadcasting it

Why Civil Rights Groups oppose the Obama Education Agenda

Two weeks ago in a dispute over California legislation, Sacramento Bee writers claimed that the defeat of SB 1285     was a defeat for "civil rights" groups.  I questioned, who were these so called "civil rights" groups.  Here is what major civil rights groups are saying about education.
Dear Deborah,
In late July, the nation's leading civil rights organizations issued a withering critique of the Obama administration's education policies. Did you see it? It would be understandable if most people never even heard about it because of the circumstances under which it was released. The statement was issued by the NAACP, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Urban League, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the National Coalition for Educating Black Children, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The press briefing was canceled at the last minute, when the leaders were invited to meet with Secretary Arne Duncan at the very hour they had scheduled their press briefing.
The statement—titled "Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn"—got little media coverage, but its detractors got plenty. Columnist Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post castigated the civil rights groups for daring to challenge President Obama, as did an editorial in The Wall Street Journal titled "Civil rights groups choose the teachers unions over black kids."  A hedge-fund manager associated with the pro-charter group "Democrats for Education Reform" called the civil rights leaders "gutless weasels" and accused them of putting the interests of the teachers' unions over the future of minority children.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Are California schools failing?

Today’s press  reports  gives API scores for  the state and local schools.  Here is some important information. 
State averages mean little.   A report on how the state is doing is here This site also explains what the various test scores mean.
The cde is very generous in describing progress.  When you compare these scores to how California students score on nationwide test, such as the NAEP, California students do not do so well.
 I encourage you tolLook at the performance of your school.  Looking at district averages is almost meaningless.  The score of a school tells you how well the school as a whole is functioning.
Look for the report of your individual students’ scores.  They are to arrive in the mail. A school may be working well  or poorly. However, of first interest is how well is your student performing.  You can influence this.
Here is a list of ways you can assist your student. From CTA. The California Teachers Association.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fraud passed off as school reform - Kohn

The less people know about teaching and learning, the more sympathetic they're likely to be to the kind of "school reform" that's all the rage these days. Look, they say, some teachers (and schools) are lousy, aren't they? And we want kids to receive a better education -- including poor kids, who typically get the short end of the stick, right? So let's rock the boat a little! Clean out the dead wood, close down the places that don't work, slap public ratings on these suckers just like restaurants that have to display the results of their health inspections.
On my sunnier days, I manage to look past the ugliness of the L.A. Times's unconscionable public shaming of teachers who haven't "added value" to their students, the sheer stupidity and arrogance of Newsweek's cover story on the topic last spring, the fact that the editorials and columns about education in every major newspaper in the U.S. seem to have been written by the same person, all reflecting an uncritical acceptance of the Bush-Obama-Gates version of school reform.
I try to put it all down to mere ignorance and tamp down darker suspicions about what's going on. If I squeeze my eyes tightly, I can almost see how a reasonable person, someone who doesn't want to widen the real gap between the haves and have-nots (which is what tends to happen when attention is focused on the gap in test scores), might look at what's going on and think that it sounds like common sense.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Republicans make economic crisis worse + Krugman

Things Could Be Worse

TOKYO. from the N.Y. Times 
“Japan’s problems now are the same as they were in the 1990s, when you were writing about them. It’s depressing.” So declared one economist I spoke to here. “But the Japanese don’t seem all that depressed,” objected another. Both were right — and the conversation crystallized some thoughts I’ve been having about Japan’s situation, and ours.
A decade ago, Japan was a byword for failed economic policies: years after its real estate bubble burst, it was still suffering from chronic deflation and slow growth. Then America had its own bubble, bust and crisis. And these days, Japan’s record doesn’t look that bad to an American eye.
Why not? For all its flaws, Japanese policy limited and contained the damage from a financial bust. And the question in America now is whether we’ll do the same — or whether we will take a hard right turn into economic disaster.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Area schools await U.S. Aid. Outrage or incompetence?

The morning Bee has a frustrating report by Diane Lambert on B1 which says that  some area school districts are considering using their portion of the schools stimulus funds next year ( not this one) for a variety of  dubious purposes.  This manipulation reduces teachers in the classrooms.
Lets review.  What got this law passed?   The economic collapse on Wall Street had decimated our schools. We activists convinced Congress that we need teachers in the classrooms.  And, putting teachers back to work would stimulate (grow) the economic recovery.
Now, according to this article several local districts, including Natomas Unified, don’t know how they will spend the money, when they will spend it,  and for what.  This manipulation and profit taking reduces teachers in the classroom –remember we needed them, and  removes the stimulus effect of the appropriation.
I am appalled at the bone headedness of these officials. One result will be there will be no future appropriations for this purpose- that is the local officials are creating a fraud on Congress.  The stimulus package was not a birthday gift to be spent however they chose.   It is not a deposit in their piggy bank. It was an investment with particular goals – more teachers and public stimulus.
Any school board member who votes for these diversions should be voted out of office.   As the President said in his news conference, “this country is really hurting and we don’t have time anymore to play games.” Here are the present allocations;

Monday, September 06, 2010

Obama: They talk about me like a dog

Labor Day 2010

Happy Labor Day--the one day of the year set aside to honor America's workers.

More than 70 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union."

At the AFL-CIO's August Executive Council meeting, President Barack Obama referenced FDR's statement and took it further:

I think that's true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I'd want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we've been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I'd want a union to make sure that the teachers' perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.

That statement is a Labor Day treasure, and I want you to have the brief video that captures it.
Watch the video. *Click here to play* [

Sunday, September 05, 2010

What created the populist explosion and how Democrats can avoid the Shrapnel in November

By Drew Westen, AlterNet

To say that the American people are angry is an understatement. The political brain of Americans today reflects a volatile mixture of fear and fury, and when you mix those together, you get an explosion. The only question at this point is how to mitigate the damage when the bomb detonates in November.
The bad news is that it's too late for Democrats to do what would have been both good policy and good politics (and what the House actually did do), namely to pass a major jobs bill when it was clear that the private sector couldn't keep Americans employed. The "Obama Doctrine" should have been that Americans who want to work and have the ability to contribute to our productivity as a nation should have the right to work, and that if the private sector can't meet the demand for jobs, we have plenty of roads and bridges to fix, new energy sources to develop and manufacture, and schools to build and renovate so our kids and workers returning for training can compete in the 21st century global economy. From having spent much of the last four years testing messages on a range of issues, from immigration to taxes and deficits, I can say with some certainty that nothing John Boehner or Eric Cantor could say could come within 30 points of generating the enthusiasm -- particularly among swing voters -- of a message that began, "We don't have a shortage of work ethic in this country, we have a shortage of work." That message resonates across the political spectrum. And it isn't even the strongest message we've tested in the last weeks or months that beats back the toughest deficit-cutting language the other side can muster.
But it's too late for that. The administration opted for an alternative doctrine, which Larry Summers enunciated on This Week several months ago: that unemployment is going to remain high for the foreseeable future and eventually come down -- as if there's nothing we can do about it -- and that they will push here and there for small symbolic measures whose symbolism tends to escape people who are out of work. It's hard to be excited by symbolism when your children are hungry or the bank is repossessing your home -- although you didn't do anything to deserve it -- while the people who did are once again making out like bandits.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Labor Day Picnic

Monday, September 6, 2010 
This year the Sacramento Central Labor Council will be celebrating its 113th year of representing working families by having a traditional 
Labor Day Picnic at: 
William Land Park 
Village Green Area 
Off of Freeport Blvd. and 
Sutterville Road 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Testing more while failing at school reform

There are schools that work well, and schools that work poorly.  The schools that work well almost always are in middle class neighborhoods, and the schools that work poorly are in poor neighborhoods.  When these students are brought together in comprehensive high schools- the lower class kids do poorly and the middle class kids do well.
There are skilled teachers, unskilled teachers, and poor teachers. The most recent evidence on Teach for America shows no particular merit in their approaches.
Research does not support the use of test scores, including value added testing as a reliable source of evaluation (See prior blog on this.) The New York Times has an article today by Sam Dillon that describes the controversy well
The essence of the argument around value added testing  as promoted in the Los Angeles Times series is that poor teachers should be eliminated.  One assumption is that individual teachers can change the school trajectory of kids.  While good teachers are important, the Broader, Bolder Approach work demonstrates that  communities need to improve the educational environment, not just hire and fire new teachers.
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